Tibetan Water River Horse XL: Outside Back Front Leg

MPF Conservation assessed the Jantzen Beach Carousel in 2018, and subsequently treated three horses and several decorative objects from the carousel.

This page is about the carousel restoration treatment for “Tibetan Water River Horse XL” (hereafter called Tibetan) from the Jantzen Beach Carousel, and shows treatment on Tibetan’s outside back front knee.

Note: Throughout MPFC may switch from flash to non-flash images,
because we are trying to show the best image of the treatment.
Videos to recap the processes are located at the bottom of this page, and on Vimeo.

Outside Back Front Leg

Above, Tibetan’s knee revealing cracks before we began, front and back.
Right, the adjacent upper shoulder above the cracked knee.

Excavation Begins

We knew the knee had a metal repair, and assumed it was copper sheeting as copper had been indicated in notes. This was verified by tapping on cracked areas with the handle of a dental pick, and listening to the difference in the sound of wood taps versus metal taps.

We began by removing the paint to see the extent of the metal patch, below. As we uncovered the knee, below, we also looked under the paint at the front shoulder, right.

There were overlapping patches, above; a top patch of sheet tin over patches of copper sheeting. We peeked under the edge of the copper, image three, and saw rubble!

The sheet tin came off first, images four through eight, above; long box nails were used to attach the top layer to the knee.

The second layer was copper, also attached with sheet nails, above. This exposed the knee joint, and allowed us to see the corrugated nails which were embedded into the knee, images five-seven.

The final layer of copper sheeting was removed, above. The extreme degradation was finally visible.

Mitchell was ready to begin to replicate the knee joint. Measurements were taken before the knee was removed, left, in case the knee fell apart.

Above, Mitchell removed several more corrugated nails. It is important to get all the nails before starting to saw parts, in order not to damage the saw blades.

The knee joint was also removed, images six-seven above.


Mitchell decided the best location of the cut, marked the cut line, and began cutting with the Japanese saw, above. The decision to cut high on Tibetan’s leg near to the shoulder was based on the following:

  1. It was imperative we reach wood free of advancing rot.
  2. A long-lasting and reliable connection must be made; our goal was to obtain strong structural viability for the leg joint in order to withstand lateral, downward force (whether from moving Tibetan for maintenance or someone sitting or climbing on his leg).
  3. To that end, a mortise and tenon joint was chosen. The mortise could extend deeply into Tibetan’s shoulder planking, then pin into his torso superstructure. This way we could gain maximum strength from the girth of his core.

Unfortunately, there were nails embedded in the leg itself, and a blade was ruined. Mitchell switched to a hack saw to get through the nails; this did the trick. However, he did not get the clean cut he wanted, and had to clean up the ends.

Tibetan’s Feelings!

Tibetan was very trusting through this frightening procedure; it was his trusting nature which allowed him to remain calm as he focused upon the end result Mitchell had promised!

At this point Tibetan was effectively an amputee, left. This worried Tibetan something fiercely, and he discussed it with Mitchell again when Mitchell came to clean his teeth, below.

Mitchell, of course, assured him that he was going to replace his leg — hadn’t Tibetan been listening?

Tibetan was greatly relieved, and slept well that evening.

Reparation Begins

The leg stump was masked to prevent a chip-out during the mortise operation, and a cutting fence was installed to allow for a level mortise cut, image one.

Above, initial cuts were performed using a plunge saw guided by the fence. Mortise walls were cleaned up using a sharp mortising chisel.

Tibetans historic leg was laid onto tulip poplar to ascertain the best direction of grain patterning in order to achieve optimal strength, left.

A tenon was created to act as a temporary connecting point between the shoulder and new leg. A bore was set for anchoring the tenon with a pin.

Above, the leg pin was temporarily placed and the beginning of the thigh to chest (upper leg) mortising began, prior to joining the two sides of the leg.

Mortising and boring of the upper shoulder prior to laminating and carving, above.

Boring operation to affix the fresh upper thigh into the historic shoulder structure, above. The introduction of temporary pins to hold the fresh leg in stasis during fitting.

The further excavation of the historic overlapping squit jointed knee and the mocking up/patterning processes prior to cutting the fresh knee.

Above, the excavation of the rotted knee and formation of the fresh joint connections to unify the historic ankle and hoof to the freshly created knee-to-shin join.

Above, the fail-safe operation of installing a screw into the shoulder of the shin-to-knee.

Mocked-up interior thigh structure with pattern of the leg contour drawn out on the fresh tulip poplar, above.

Above, the joinery of ankle to shin operation through the application of a pinned overlapping butted scarf joint.

Ankle scarf joint to shin operation leg contours drawn onto fresh shim to define proper positioning.

Shin-to-ankle overlapping scarf join complete, right.

Joining operation to unify the fresh shin and thigh prior to pinning and carving, above.

Above, boring and pinning the knee to thigh, shin to knee joinery.

Above, final pattern layout over the fresh leg. Tracings performed and transferred to wood surfaces. Pinning, gluing, paring and contour operation ongoing.

Tibetan has his leg back!

He agrees that the only thing that would make it look better is paint, but we did not paint Tibetan yet because many more repairs need to be completed.

However, we topped the fresh tulip poplar with several coats of 1-lb clear shellac to seal the varnish and minimize shrinkage during the gesso and paint process to come.

Below, three videos that recap this process (and are also posted on Vimeo):

Outside Back Front Leg Video 1

Outside Back Front Leg Video 2

Outside Back Front Leg Video 3

Below, two more pages that discuss other repairs: